Protein Identified As Potential Treatment Target for Type 1 Diabetes

A team of researchers have discovered a new protein that might become a potential treatment target for type 1 diabetes. It may also change the current perspective of what causes the said disease. The finding is published in the current issue of Pancreas.

Researchers from the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have discovered a protein that is being seen to have a critical role on how the human body regulates blood sugar levels. The protein, which has been named by scientists as the Islet Homeostasis Protein or IHop, can be found in the pancreatic islets, groups of cells that produce the insulin and glucagon hormones which the body uses to regulate blood sugar.

Normally, glucagon is being used to raise blood sugar levels while insulin helps lower the blood sugar level by moving it into the body’s cells. In people with type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce enough insulin that it needs, causing the blood sugar levels to shoot up.

Researchers have so far isolated the new protein IHoP in humans as well as rodents. They have determined that this protein can be found in the glucagon-producing cells in the pancreatic islets. People that have not developed diabetes yet have shown high levels of IHoP. But after the onset of diabetes, the researchers found no expression of the newly discovered protein. This may suggest that the protein may play a significant role in maintaining blood sugar levels by regulating the balance of insulin and glucagon.

The researchers further studied the protein’s effect by inhibiting its production in rodents. The results showed that there was a loss of glucagon expression which then further lead to insulin levels decreasing further followed by an increase of glucagon and the destruction of the insulin-producing cells. According to She-Hoon Oh, Ph. D, an instructor of regenerative medicine at Wake Forest and lead author of the study, “In a nutshell, appears to keep blood sugar regulation in check. When IHoP isn’t present, it throws the pancreas into a critical state and starts the process that results in type 1 diabetes.”

Current belief supports the idea that cell death plays a vital role in the development of type 1 diabetes. This may be brought about by a viral and environmental trigger among genetically susceptible people which can lead to the body’s white blood cells to attack insulin producing cells. Over time, the said cells are completely destroyed.

But the results of the new study suggest that IHoP may also play a role in this process. The researchers will be conducting further studies to determine just how IHoP controls the interaction between insulin and glucagon. The said protein may also hopefully lead researchers into developing new treatments or even find a cure for this currently incurable disease.

Source: Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center (2012, January 4). Protein that may represent new target for treating type 1 diabetes identified. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 5, 2012, from


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